Defense Attorney Cook Named Cumberland School of Law’s 2016 Lawyer-in-Residence

Published on November 3, 2016 by Polly Manuel  
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Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law has named well-known criminal defense attorney Bobby Lee Cook as this year’s lawyer-in-residence. Cook will speak to students Nov. 10 at 3 p.m. in Cumberland School of Law’s John L. Carroll Moot Courtroom. The event is open to the public and free of charge. 

After graduating from Vanderbilt University Law School in the 1940’s, Cook began a criminal defense career that continues more than six decades later. He has tried thousands of cases, representing hundreds of accused murderers, money launderers, racketeers, bootleggers, high-profile white-collar criminals and some very unpopular clients.  

Regarded as one of the South’s best-known defense attorneys, it is widely believed that Andy Griffith’s character in the television series Matlock was based on the professional life of Cook. A Google search of “Bobby Lee Cook” reveals over 13 million results. One of those results is a YouTube video in which Cook is dubbed “The Master of Reasonable Doubt.” 

In addition to criminal proceedings, Cook took a stand by representing labor unions at a time when many in the South viewed pro-labor organizations as Communist sympathizers. In the late 1970s, Cook represented the Rockefellers and Carnegies as plaintiffs in a land condemnation action. He used the jury’s basic mistrust of government as a foundation for his case, and the jury awarded millions above what the government offered. 

In recent years, Cook settled a case that directly benefited hundreds of retired Georgia teachers. He represented the retirees who contended that the Teachers Retirement System incorrectly calculated their monthly retirement pay by using the wrong mortality tables. Cook recovered millions of dollars on behalf of the retired teachers, effectively reimbursing retirement funds upon which they were dependent. 

Cook has been honored for his tenacity by hundreds of groups. He was the first recipient of the Traditional Excellence Awards given by the State Bar of Georgia, the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Small Town Lawyer Made Good Award by the State Bar of Washington. 

Cook served as the inaugural guest speaker at the 2012 Jere F. White Jr. Trial Advocacy Institute, presented by Cumberland School of Law and the American College of Trial Lawyers. Following his visit to the law school, Cook will attend this year’s institute Nov. 11 at the Westin Hotel in Birmingham.

“Since he is one of the most accomplished, colorful, and well-known trial attorneys in the country and is friends with the White family, Mr. Cook was the ideal keynote speaker at the inaugural Jere F. White, Jr. Trial Advocacy Institute in 2012," said Cumberland Law Dean Henry Strickland III. "He made a generous contribution to the Jere F. White, Jr. Fellows program.  The planning chairs of the institute have remained in contact with Mr. Cook and invited him to return to the 2016 institute as a special guest.  Mr. Cook agreed to extend his visit to address and meet with Cumberland students and faculty as this year’s Lawyer-in-Residence.  We are honored to have him and look forward to his visit.”

Cumberland School of Law’s lawyer-in-residence program annually invites a distinguished graduate or friend of the law school to visit campus, speaking to classes related to his or her area of expertise. The program allows students to augment the traditional curriculum with the experiences of current practitioners.

Polly Manuel is marketing and communication coordinator for Cumberland School of Law.

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ABOUT SAMFORD UNIVERSITY -- Samford University is a premier nationally ranked private university deeply rooted in its Christian mission. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th oldest institution of higher education in the United States. U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 3rd among regional universities in the South. Samford enrolls 5,509 students from 45 states, the District of Columbia and 29 other countries in its 10 academic units: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy, and public health. Samford also fields 17 NCAA Division I teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference.